Husband and wife musicians Danish vocalist Cæcilie Norby and Swedish bassist Lars Danielsson both have impeccable jazz credentials inside and outside Scandinavia. For the former, a lengthy tenure as a Blue Note artist gained useful exposure internationally and Norby has now been an ACT artist for some five years. In the case of the latter, the bassist has worked with some of the greats past and present including the Brecker Brothers and Charles Lloyd. Recorded in Sweden and mixed at the famous Rainbow studios in Oslo, famous for the ECM sound, this new recording makes inventive use of the duet format and manage to keep things varied throughout, and consequently the music gels together beautifully. Norby possesses a deep voice in a not dissimilar vein to Dianne Reeves (on other songs the influence of Billie Holiday is sometimes evident, though never a carbon copy attempt), is clearly well versed in the jazz vocal tradition, and ad-libs wonderfully on the original number, ‘Double Dance’.
The duo have previously contributed two albums with a classical bent under the ‘Libretto’ title and here ‘Libretto Cantabile’ continues the quasi-classical connection with a piece that is more in a gentle folk vein. Wordless vocals in the intro and bass work in tandem on ‘Toccata’ with a melodic story line and an intriguing combination of jazz and classical bass lines. Even a couple of Abbey Lincoln covers are attempted and of these the blues-laden ‘And it is supposed to be love’ is a highlight which hits as lovely percussive groove and cello adds to the layered texture as does what sounds like a marimba solo. A stripped down to the bare minimum reading of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Both sides now’ works a treat where once again one discovers a lovely blues undercurrent bubbles just below the surface. The minimalist accompaniment adds intimacy to the standards elsewhere with a slower tempo in the bass than the original on Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ where Norby excels and is at once a gentle and reflective way in which to end the album.